Gotham has always been a bonkers take on the Batman mythos. Remember, the third episode of the series followed a vigilante killer called the Balloon Man who tied his victims up to weather balloons before letting them loose to fly away into the sky. It has never been a subtle show in the slightest. But it's also gone back and forth over the years about what it wanted to be and what it wanted to do with the cast.
Now in its fifth and final season, Gotham has gone all out with the idea of No Man's Land, and it's never been better. The show has gone full blown Mad Max, while letting the cast go all out in the newly minted hellscape. Just before it's set to end, Gotham has finally become great.
The Long Game
One long-standing criticism of Gotham over the years has been its tendency to build up its plot lines slowly. The characters have gone through utterly ridiculous arcs, shifting alliances and even the occasional death and resurrection, all to prolong the tension.
The show has gone back and forth on what it wants to do with its stories, often alternating between melodrama and just the most absurd plot twists on television. Considering some of the other shows on television at the moment, that's really saying something. The twists never felt like they were part of a greater whole, instead coming off like the producers were just throwing ideas at the wall to see what stuck.
But knowing that the end is near, Gotham has been able to choose once and for all what it wants to be. The twists now seem more focused on where the characters are actually going instead of just trying different things.
Selina Kyle has seen multiple false starts to becoming the villain we all know her to (eventually) be. She walked the villainous line repeatedly throughout the show, but with the ending in sight she's been permitted a more decisive shift.
This means the cast of Gotham has finally got the chance to follow through with their arcs, bringing five seasons worth of time with these characters to a meaningful conclusion. It's exciting to see actors like David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova see their characters through to their logical conclusions.
The show has also generally embraced the most bonkers elements of the series. Characters like Barbara and the Riddler have always bordered on the unbearably over the top, especially when Gotham was juxtaposing them against the more conventional characters. But with the show going all in on No Man's Land, the series has finally matched their insanity.
Gordon isn't just trying to be a cop in a difficult city. He's having full-blown Western-inspired showdowns with gangs in the "Badlands." Poison Ivy is becoming more attuned to the magical world. Riddler is being mind-controlled by Bane. Even the Mutant Gang has shown up! The world has finally reached the same point of bombast as some of the characters, which has allowed Gotham to become the craziest damn show on TV.
The Batman Conundrum
One of the things that's always been hanging over the show is the growth of the young Bruce Wayne into Batman. That's just what happens when you have a show centering around Gotham City before he becomes the Caped Crusader.
Gotham, despite being primarily focused on Jim Gordon, has always paid attention to Bruce and his growth. Just like everyone else on the show, his character has gone through various highs and lows. He's been a baby Batman at various points in the show, but now it actually feels like the creators are letting Bruce take the steps he needs to become the Dark Knight.
Gotham as a whole feels that way, finally becoming the DC show it never had the confidence to become. Gotham at its best has always been over the top and big, with the more realistic relationships becoming the most dour and slow stories in the series. Now that the final season has rolled up and the producers feel comfortable going as big as possible to close it out, the show has reached the bonkers heights it was always reaching for. It may have taken until the last season, but Gotham has finally become great.
Airing Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox, Gotham stars Ben McKenzie as James Gordon, Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock, David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne, Robin Lord Taylor as Penguin, Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle, Erin Richards as Barbara Kean and Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth.